Monarch Rose

Food Forest Keepers: Michael and Alison

Alison and I are by no means professional gardeners but we have such a love for nature and its pure beauty! We have always had a long interest in having a garden and growing our own food. The experience of taking nothing and turning it into a beautiful, lush food supply would feel like such an accomplishment.

Alison and I first learned of the Sustainable Backyard program from her mother, Donna, who heard about it at the Vacaville Farmers Market. After reading the flyers and talking with Nicole, we decided to submit an application to host a site.

Since we have been trying to live a healthier life, we wanted to incorporate having home-grown food in our new lifestyle. We want to have the beauty of a garden and to be able to share with our neighbors, family and new friends.


Site Details

Installation Date:

January 2019


1,600 square feet

Sun Exposure:

8 hours



Number of Swales:


Secondary Water:

Lawn Conversion
Roof water diverted to swales

Total annual water impact:

127,152 gallons



Designer: Kathleen Huffman

Plant List:

Craigs Crimson Cherry, Pink Lady Apple, Meyer Lemon, Sweet Katie Burgandy Desert Willow, Washington Navel Orange

Black Sage, Black Satin Black Berry, Ceanothus (Yankee Point Carmel), Blueberry (Mist, Southern Highbush), Bottle Brush (Little John), Buddleia, De La Mina Verbena, Raspberry (Heritage, Wilamette), Red Yucca, Rosemary (Golden Rain), Wooly Blue Curls

Agastache, Comfrey, Coreopsis (Lady Charlize), Garlic Chives, Lemon Thyme, Italian Oregano, Italian Parsley, Lemon Verbena, Marjoram, Monardella (San Antonia Hills), Narrowleaf Milkweed, Penstemon (Manganita, Taffy Grape, Pike Peak Purple, Blue Spring), Purple Coneflower, Sage, Scabiosa, Spearmint, Winter Savory, Yarrow

Strawberries (Yellow Wonder, Alpine, White Soul)

Sunchoke, Yacon

Flame Seedless Grape


The installation was a great experience. To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect from the program. We were apprehensive at first and worried about ruining our yard. But Nicole and Kathleen both are amazing people who took the time to explain step by step what would be done and how things would go, putting our nerves at complete rest. It was a fun and exciting experience to bring people from our community we didn’t know to help convert our yard into something so amazing.

Kathleen and Nicole put on a class before the installation to talk about permaculture and the steps involved in our project. I will admit I was a little overwhelmed by the thought of replacing all our grass with mulch that covered the entire yard. It was hard to envision what it would look like, but once it was complete it was amazing.

The first days were spent digging the swale and running the new drip lines. We laid down large sheets of cardboard over the grass and covered it in mulch. The second day was spent finishing the mulch and planting the many different beautiful plants. Now we have a beautiful yard with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherry, orange, apple and lemon trees, many, many herbs and beautiful flower plants.

To top it off Alison made amazing pulled pork and coleslaw. We had ice cold drinks and lots of other amazing treats for all to enjoy, to show our gratitude to all those who came to learn and help us.

Vision for the Future:

We hope to continue to learn about gardening and adding to our food forest. We want to see it grow and thrive to supply food not only for us but our neighbors. We can’t wait to host the sustainable tours of our food forest to share our experience and knowledge with others. We have always been proud of our home, but now we have a different kind of pride.